Gender bias in sex and innovation

The Osé vibrator, product that won the CES Innovation Award, had its prize revoked and could not to be exposed on the event’s floor. Photo: Lora Di Carlo

by Leonardo Massarelli

CES is a celebration of innovation. Companies from around the world, new and established, big and small, have an opportunity to showcase their work to a global audience. An event like this, especially at this scale, shouldn’t constrain or dictate the rights and wrongs in innovation, but that has been a notorious trend at CES when it comes to women.

I believe in using design and innovation to create humane futures. We must have the courage to talk about topics that have been long ignored by the industry because they are taboo. Design can and should be used as a vehicle to tackle these subjects. Women’s Health, while certainly making an impact the past few years, apparently still has a long way to go. CES is no stranger to negative press when it comes to gender-bias as it occupies a space of typically male-dominated industries. From “booth babes” to “shrink and pink”, we are finally seeing a lot of amazing companies that are tackling infertility, menstruation, and skin care, but sexual pleasure is still considered too “provocative”.

At this year’s 2019 CES, Lora DiCarlo, a sex toy company, won the CES Innovation Award for their Osé vibrator in the Drones & Robotics category, only to later have it revoked and were told they would not be allowed to show their product on the floor. This female-founded company worked with the Oregon State University’s robotics department to create a sex toy that used biomimicry to inspire the internal robotics that mimics stimulation coming from the mouth or tongue and responds in real time to the woman’s needs. Although this product is a health device, CES claimed that it did not fit into any of the existing categories of “Wearables”, “Biotech”, or “Health and Wellness”, thus their award would not be honored. As stated on Lora DiCarlo’s website,

“There is an obvious double-standard when it comes to sexuality and sexual health. While there are sex and sexual health products at CES, it seems that CES/CTA administration applies the rules differently for companies and products based on the gender of their customers. Men’s sexuality is allowed to be explicit with a literal sex robot in the shape of an unrealistically proportioned woman and VR porn in point of pride along the aisle. Female sexuality, on the other hand, is heavily muted if not outright banned. You cannot pretend to be unbiased if you allow a sex robot for men but not a vagina-focused robotic massager for blended orgasm.”

There is no place for gender-bias in the technology and innovation space. To call a vibrator “immoral” and “obscene” is to further stifle the sexual-pleasure gap between men and women and amplifies the dismissal of the importance of female pleasure. It has always been a dream of mine to dive into this space and design a sex toy in an effort to try to break down the taboos that still exist around personal vibrators.

We stand behind Lora DiCarlo and the Osé. We believe that sexual pleasure is a human right. We work to create futures where these inequalities are stripped away. We uplift those who have been shut down time and time again by those trying to silence them.

Osé for all!

Click here to read Lora DiCarlo’s full statement